Bagley Wright, business man and patron of the arts, was remembered at a packed St. Mark's Cathedral memorial Tuesday (July 26). Wright was an art collector but also a major backer of the Seattle Rep, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Opera, and the Seattle Symphony, among other groups. One story told was how Wright even backed ACT theater with a major gift while it competed with his own Rep. He was on a mission to bring culture to Seattle, and no one thinks he didn't make a huge impact.
But Wright was also a writer, a former journalist, an avid reader. His son Charlie Wright spoke of the poetry press that he and his father founded together. Speaking at the memorial service, former SAM director Mimi Gates said that Wright's favorite authors were F. Scott Fitzgerald (also a Princeton grad) and Marcel Proust, and that he once wrote a dialogue for a SAM catalog featuring a debate between an art collector (Wright) and Diderot.
The readings at the memorial included a text from Ecclesiastes (44:1-15): "Let us now sing the praises of famous men...." Those men included "rich men endowed with resources..." and Wright was clearly one of those. But also included are "those who gave counsel because they were intelligent; those who spoke in prophetic oracles; those who led the people by their counsels and by their knowledge of the people's lore; they were wise in their words of instruction; those who composed musical tunes, or put verses in writing...."
Whoever wrote this passage gives a major nod to the arts that Wright loved, with a special call-out to writers, critics, and storytellers as being among the famous and praiseworthy. Which leads me to a project that is worthy of public support.
I recently wrote that Seattle needed to do better in remembering its writers, and wondered why there were so few shrines to them here. The Seattle Weekly's Rick Anderson picked up on my column and made the case for a Writer's Park in Seattle, a very cool idea. The city needs more recognition of its literary legacies (it also needs more recognition of over 100 years of history that is absent from the map, but that's another story).
Seattle City council member Nick Licata has now taken interest in the idea. In an email to me, Licata said, "We do need to do more to recognize and celebrate our literary and journalist workers in Seattle. I liked that Rick Anderson picked up your idea and went forward with the idea of a Writers Park. I'm going to ... see if I can get the Parks Board to adopt the idea."
Anderson's idea: "The Writer's Park, a historic journalism junkyard where memorable Seattle, or Northwest, journalists, editors, and authors could be remembered without spoiling more than one neighborhood." Anderson, whose idea is drawn from his own work and drinking experiences, envisions two monuments: a replica of the old P-I copy desk where Frank Herbert, Tom Robbins, David Wagoner, and Darrell Bob Houston all toiled (along with Anderson), and the other featuring the Blue Moon Tavern bar with the figures of "Roethke, Carolyn Kizer, and Stanley Kunitz, and a lesser poet, John Pym, remembered for taking a flying slide off a shuffleboard table and crashing through the front window." I love the idea of seeing the latter rendered in bronze, and yes, the P-I Globe may soon need a new home.
Okay, the specifics need work, but the idea of a Writer's Park/shrine is a good one. I bumped into Marie McCaffrey, Walt Crowley's widow, at the Bagley Wright service and she said she liked the writer's shrines idea and also the Writer's Park concept. Remember, the men worthy of praise in the Bible included "those who led the people ... by their knowledge of the people's lore ... or put verses in writing...." Surely, the city's writers, journos, poets, and knowers of our lore deserve a park of their own.